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With only two meets remaining on the NCAA Division I XC schedule, there are still seven undefeated runners. Some of the names are familiar, while others are lesser-known. Let's take a look at who has yet to lose heading into regionals on Friday.
Edwin Kurgat, Iowa State
-John McNichols Invitational, 23:47 (8K)
-Nuttycombe Invitational, 23:29 (8K)
-Big 12 Championships, 23:36 (8K)
The NCAA favorite has put up the most impressive season in all of the NCAA, racking up three quality wins. He wasted no time testing himself, running away with the John McNichols Invitational to kick off the fall. At Nuttycombe, he went against a deep field and came away with a 10-second win. Even his race at Big 12s had solid competition in Oklahoma State’s Isai Rodriguez. None of this guarantees Kurgat will win in Terre Haute, but it's why he's tops in the nation.
Vincent Kiprop, Alabama
-Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational, 23:09 (5 mile)
-SEC Championships, 22:51 (8K)
Kiprop has kept a low-profile, competing only twice. At Notre Dame, he beat some solid runners including his teammate Gilbert Kigen (#4 in FloXC rankings), Oliver Hoare (#7) and Joe Klecker (#10).
Conner Mantz, BYU
-BYU Autumn Classic, 21:12 (6.95K)
-Bill Dellinger Invitational, 23:24 (8K)
-Pre National Invitational (Blue race), 23:20 (8K)
-West Coast Conference Championships, 23:33 (8K)
Mantz has been good as expected this year, going four-for-four. His best result came in Terre Haute at Pre Nationals where he outkicked Amon Kemboi (#5) and Isai Rodgriguez (#6). His ability to close hard adds another dimension to his front-running from 2018.
Nadeel Wildschutt, Coastal Carolina
-ECU Pirate XC Invitational, 23:21 (8K)
-Sun Belt Conference, 23:29 (8K)
Wildschutt has won both his races this year and once again is undefeated heading into regionals. Last year he was 4-0, but didn’t make the NCAA Championships after finishing 52nd at the Southeast regional. He’s hoping to re-capture his 2017 season where he placed fourth in regionals on his way to a 28th place finish at NCAAs.
Alex Masai, Hofstra
-Stony Brook University Wolfie Cross Country Invitational, 24:23 (8K)
-Paul Short Run, 23:17 (8K)
-Princeton Cross Country Invitational, 23:19 (8K)
-CAA Cross Country Championships, 23:54 (8K)
Like Wildschutt, Masai has back-to-back undefeated seasons heading into regionals. Last year, his first in cross country, ended when he took 62nd at the Northeast regional. With more experience, he should fare better this year after going 4-0 and defending his CAA championship.
Aaron Bienefeld, Cincinnati
-Rhodes College Cross Country Invitational, 24:10 (8K)
-Pre National Invitational (white race), 24:04 (8K)
-AAC Cross Country Championships, 23:43 (8K)
Bienefeld has experience at the NCAA Championships and his solo run in the white race at Pre Nationals was impressive.
Whittni Orton, BYU
-Big Wave Invitational, 18:05 (5K)
-Bill Dellinger Invitational, 19:25 (6K)
-West Coast Conference Championships, 19:49 (6K)
The lone undefeated woman in NCAA DI wouldn’t have been considered BYU’s top runner entering the season, but Orton has managed to finish ahead of Erica Birk on all three occasions they’ve raced this fall. Orton didn’t race at Pre Nationals, which would have been the deepest field she’s faced all season. But Birk won in her absence--further proof of how good the Orton/Birk duo is.